The years 1888 and 1889 had brought both sorrow and honour to the Robertson family of Palé. Henry Robertson whose talents and acumen had brought the family fortune and honour died suddenly in March 1888, and it would seem that the family’s finances were immediately somewhat diminished as Thomas Ruddy reports having to lay off some men from his gardening team. Only just over a later Henry’s second daughter Annie Sherriff, née Robertson had died after a short but distressing illness. The young Henry Beyer Robertson, only 25 at his father’s death, immediately after the death of his sister had shouldered the not inconsiderable task of hosting Queen Victoria and her entourage for a 5 day stay at Palé Hall in August 1889.
Thomas Ruddy played an important role in the visit in a number of ways (see earlier posts) and had been rewarded with the gift of a pearl scarf pin from the Queen. In September 1889, therefore, the Robertson and Ruddy families must have been anticipating a quieter and more settled few months to end the year. However, Thomas was about to receive a shock.
Sunday the 22nd [September]. To my very great surprise, I had a letter on this day from Mr. G. R. Griffith to say that at a meeting last Friday of the committee of the Chester Society of Natural Science, I was awarded the Kingsley Memorial medal, and that he, Mr Griffith as Secretary personally congratulated me. This was an honour I little expected, and although I have done some good work, it has all been done as a labour of love.
It would seem that Thomas initially declined the offer (although he does not state this in the journal) giving as his reason his nervousness at the thought of receiving the medal personally in public, and his concern at leaving Palé during the absence of Mr. H B Robertson, who was to visit the Paris Exhibition at that time – although he might also have scruples at the slight of hand Mr. Griffith proposed to give Thomas the residential qualifications enshrined in the bye-laws – the counties of Chester and Flint – Thomas did not in fact ever stay at Llantysilio Hall.
It took a further letter from Mr. Griffiths and one from a third party, Thomas’ friend George Dickson, nurseryman and member of the Chester Society, to persuade Thomas to accept.
By September 23rd Thomas was ready to write a gracious and self-deprecatory reply, accepting the honour.
And so it was arranged, that Thomas Ruddy, geologist, entirely self-taught and without academic qualification or membership of a learned society, became the 12th recipient of the Kingsley Memorial Medal.
The next post will describe the occasion when he received it from the Countess of Grosvenor.